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Evidence of Sonic Differences in Cables (1 Viewer)

Lee Scoggins

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Friends,
In order to give my friend Chu a place to hangout ;), I thought we might try again at a thread specifically oriented to sonic differences in cables.
A few ground rules if I might with your indulgence:
I would like to keep this an electrical engineering, audio and otherwise technical discussion if at all possible. Many feel differently about what is legitimate to spend on an interconnect cable, but I would like to avoid discussing price if possible. We also don't have an easy way to conduct double blind tests so I respectfully suggest we leave out listening tests in DBT, although people may find value in recounting past experience in home or pro audio.
I will start the ball rolling by providing a link to Analysis Plus cables site which has some excellent white papers. Look at Figures 5 and 6 in the following web page...
http://www.analysis-plus.com/Pages/report981.htm
This to me is good evidence that certain cable designs are likely to sound different. But read one friend, it goes EMI...
Do you agree? why?
 

Saurav

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Well, I saw an Analysis Plus advertisement in the May 2002 edition of Stereophile. Here's what I posted on another forum:
the falling edge of the 'Signal leaving the amplifier'. It even says 'Scientifically Verifiable Quality' at the top.
I wonder if I'm the only one who notices things like this :)
So... not to throw a spanner into your argument, but I often wonder if 'reports' like these are more marketing than science. Of course, if you ask me, I'm on the "anything is possible" side of this discussion, but I'm not sure how much scientific value such reports actually carry.
Just my opinion, of course.
 

Chu Gai

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Evidence does not come from illustrations and graphs unless those were first preceded by listening and audibility studies. There are after all limitations to human audibility and a baseless belief in thinking that long term hearing is able to not only discern differences but has a great ability to do accurate comparisons. I'll comment further shortly upon the white paper.
 

Lee Scoggins

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Evidence does not come from illustrations and graphs unless those were first preceded by listening and audibility studies.
Why not? Analysis Plus does conduct listening tests in making their cable according to my dealer.

I challenge you to prove the graphs are incorrect.

I also challenge you to prove we can't hear what the graphs show.
 

Chu Gai

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From your link...
Almost everyone has heard or seen the interfering effect of a vacuum cleaner, lawnmower engine, hair dryer, or blender on a radio or television. These are examples of EMI, which can also significantly degrade the performance of a hi-fi system.
And here I thought it was the objectional noise those products produce. I've found that my listening experience improves when not vaccuming next to audio equipment, mowing my carpet (I've since switched to Berber which doesn't require as much attention), drying my hair while either listening to music or watching televisions, or using the blender to crush ice or make a Pina Colada while doing the same. No doubt I can now do those things if I use their cable.
No doubt the human ear is sensitive but it is not more sensitive than electronic equipment in discerning differences. Analsys Plus seeks to befuddle the issue by not addressing issues such as how JND's (Just Noticeable Differences) are a function of frequency of frequency and what the levels of ambient noise are in various listening environments.
So let's take one of Analysis Plus's references...Sivian, L.J., and White, S.D.: On minimum audible sound fields, J. Acous. Soc. Am., 4:288, 1933
Now for those who wish to read this particular paper, a pdf of it can be found at http://www.unl.edu/secd/psychoa/papers/MAP_MAF.pdf
It does have the benefit of being peer reviewed and cited in numerous studies, even 'White Papers' that seek to befuddle and confuse.
Some of the summaries in the cited paper are as follows:
Tests were performed in an acoustically dead room. Extraneous noise was at a minimum. (You think your listening environment is acoustically dead?)
Listener fatigue was guarded against. (What does that say for those who believe in long listening sessions?)
Subjects were an average age of 23 years old and all were tested previously and found to have normal or above normal hearing. (ever check your hearing and have it compared to that?)
Test tones used were either sine waves or warbles. (music is far more complex)
We can detect lower sounds with the use of two ears instead of one.
Maximum sensitivity to detecting a sound varies with frequency and is most sensitive in the region of about 1kHz to 5 kHz. (so when you listen to music using your cable's are you mentally and selectively focusing on this frequency range.come on now!). Is it any wonder, that when level matched tests are conducted, that listeners can't tell the difference between two cables?
So we know that sounds with greater pressure don't always sound louder. So much for the audiophilic comment about ears being the most sensitive instrument.
Yes there are measureable electical differences in Analysis Plus' cable from standard 12 gauge as there are from Alpha-Goertz, Kimber, Nordost, etc. So? These differences are often in the upper frequency ranges, an area of human hearing that the paper by Sivian and White indicates we are particulary insensitve to.
Now if your desire is to purchase a cable, because it meets some design criteria in minimizing certain electrical characteristics, well that's fine. Why not? If you want to buy it because you're intrigued in owning something that's different (hollow, oval, rectangular, ribbon, higher purity, a different base metal, numerology, exposure to cryogenic temperatures, exposure to light of a particular frequency, mined in a certain part of the world, etc.) fine. Knock yourself out. You want to buy something because you enjoy a particular relationship with a vendor, or you enjoy having something someone else doesn't or can't afford? Fine. You like the cool little picture of a cat, mouse, the fact that its been reviewed in your favorite periodical? Fine. You like the color of the cables, maybe the use of unique metals in the connectors...Hey, that's your preference. But if your reason is for sonic differences (typically read as improvements), the correlation between audibility and the aforementioned reasons aren't there. Yes there may be poorly designed amplification sources whose electrical characteristics vary with volumeSivian & White delved into it. Others quote it without an understanding of just what is being said and in support of something. You'd think with all this electromagnetic modeling, Analysis Plus would have found the time to carry out
On the issue of EMI, the typical home I would hazard to say has probably pretty low levels. Even those who live in fairly close proximity to areas where transmission towers abound rarely experience problems. Don't forget that EMI is subject to the inverse square law...double the distance, the signal goes down by a factor of 4. In those rare cases where people do have problems, it doesn't require an expensive, esoteric solution, although if that's what floats your boat, go for it. One could conceivably put a twist into their wire, no? Doesn't the equipment we use have to meet FCC guidelines? Where are the graphs that indicate typical pollution of cables when they're placed next to a CD player or some other piece of equipment? Maybe the lawnmower was in the shop.
Now if only Analysis Plus and others would demonstrate the superiority of their speaker wires with conrolled testing using DBT's (after all they are fond of referencing scientific periodicals) and people, all of us will have a reason to take notice. Until then, they're just Analysis Minus
Got another white paper?
 

Chu Gai

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Have your dealer provide the details of the listening tests.

The graphs are probably correct. So?

In science Lee, the onus of proof is on the one making the claims and are supposed to be able to stand scrutiny and the ability to be repeated. That last statement is like me asking you to prove you don't beat your wife.
 

Mark Austin

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If any of you ever have a few minutes to spare you may want to try to get ahold of Pierre Sprey of Mapleshade Records. Pierre is an aeronautical engineer formerly with the Pentagon. He was a principal designer in the A-10 Warthog, and the F-16 fighter. Under his label Mapleshade he sells interconnects, speaker cables, powerstrips, power cords, tuning cones, etc.. The design on these things is VERY unconventional. He also designed, and sells another brand called Omega Mikro($$$), but not through Mapleshade. The guy is very knowledgable, and might provide an interesting perspective to many of the naysayers.
www.mapleshaderecords.com
1-888-CDMAPLE
 

Chu Gai

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A pity that Sprey's interest in accurately reporting the success of 'smart bombs', or his undertanding of aerodynamics, does not extend into a comparable thoroughness when it comes to verifying the claimed audible improvements of his designs. From the website I read things like 'veils removed...I heard...etc.' Nice hype, where's the corresponding rigorous tests to back it up? Certainly the F16 wasn't designed like this? Was it? I'll post the results of any email correspondence I may receive.
 

Mark Austin

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Yeah, he doesn't have any supporting data on his website, it's best to talk to him by phone or email.
 

Chu Gai

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an email was sent...tends to avoid issues of remembering exactly what was said...Sprey's not a big fan of stealth based weaponry is he? Certainly has led an interesting life.
 

Lee Scoggins

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Almost everyone has heard or seen the interfering effect of a vacuum cleaner, lawnmower engine, hair dryer, or blender on a radio or television. These are examples of EMI, which can also significantly degrade the performance of a hi-fi system.
Sorry Chu, this is proven audio phenomena. That is why AC Quiet Lines products and the likes exist. Dirty power equals dirty music (and I'm not talking Eminem here :D)
I am sorry I just don't see an effect rebuttal here.
 

Saurav

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That's a poor argument at best. You are saying that all of the scientific analysis in the white paper does not matter unless a DBT is done? That's just silly. Even when I present science-based differences, you reject them because there is no direct link to listening tests.
Actually, I'm with Chu on this one. AFAIK, no one debates that there are electrically measurable differences between wires or any other components. If your instruments are sensitive enough, you'll find measurable differences between different samples of the same product from the same manufacturer.

So, the point isn't whether a difference can be measured (it can, everyone knows and accepts that), it is whether a difference can be heard. That is, of course, assuming that the person in question is interested in a sonic improvement. There have been many things that I've done where I really can't tell the difference between the two, but one of them is more pleasing for other reasons - aesthetically, technically, or even based on measurements.

Here's a different example - I could make a change in the design of my preamp's power supply which reduces a spike at around 100 KHz. Is this change measurable? With the right tools, definitely. Is it audible? I don't know, and that's the question that needs to be answered.
 

Mark Austin

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The burden of proof must be on both of us to show that differences exist (me) or don't exist (you).
If one is to discuss burden of proof, then yes, it does fall on both sides, since both sides are providing a claim. Is there really a burden of proof for someone on a message board????? No. This is about sharing information, not proving scientific theories.
 

Chu Gai

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Lee: I've never argued the fact that cables can and do measure differrently with regards to electrical consideratations. The question remains: put up your Cardas, Analysis Plus, Nordost, Alpha-Goertz, Monster, you name it against plain old Copper of a similar length and gauge. Shoot for the moon, make the price disparity whatever you want. Let's test it.
The burden of proof must be on both of us to show that differences exist (me) or don't exist (you).
Speak to some researchers in whatever discipline you want. Talk to mathemeticians. You've got some fine universities in the Atlanta area. Get a hold of some of the professors and ask them why it is that you can't prove a null. I believe you're bound to find some that will gladly speak with you on this matter.
Each and every place that's selling their cables looks to differentiate their product in some manner. Purity of metal, braiding, numerology, crystal structure, alloys, plating, and the ubiquitous white paper(s). They patent their method of construction. The consumer looks and says, wow, a patent or they look at pictures taken with an electron microscope and knowingly mutter the mantra...intercrystalline distortion...hmmm.
I'm sure you didn't mean that AC Quiet Lines products were invented to combat lawnmowers. I don't argue that EMI interference doesn't exist but you sure as hell don't need exotic and pricey solutions to combat it. Twist the wire carefully and reproducibly. Talk to Belden about the degree of improvement that will have.
A demonstration that can be performed by any who frequent various audio 'emporiums' when confronted by a sales consultant who's looking to get you to move up significantly in price is for you to do the switching except don't. Tell them you did, and ask them for what they feel the improvements were. Yes they heard it...in their mind.
Lee, you're an intelligent individual. Doesn't your search for the ultimate, pique your curiosity in personally examining issues of audibility?
More to say, but I'm late for my meeting with the Illuminati at the FreeMason's lodge. We're going to watch Oliver Stone's JFK :)
 

Lee Scoggins

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Lee, you're an intelligent individual. Doesn't your search for the ultimate, pique your curiosity in personally examining issues of audibility?
Chu,

This is my point actually. As I have said many times before, I base my belief in sonic differences on what I have heard in the recording studio where the environment has been highly controlled with a pure signal path from the microphone and DAT. We substitute cables all the time with everything being equal and there is usually a huge sonic difference. We listen carefully along with several experienced listeners and switch back and forth between cables on different tracks until we are satisfied we get the character of the cable. Often we can improve the sound of a recording by 30% by using a good high end microphone cable with little audio signature.

So I have examined this issue personally with thousands of cables over a 20 year time span in audio.
 

Chu Gai

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So now let's take it out of the studio (that we can discuss when we meet or a different thread) where a whole lot of different things are going on and let's go into the home. If its going to be done in a studio, let's test it as if it were in a home. Similar equipment, albeit studio grade, and let's hook it up as if you or I or anyone else were doing it. Hell Lee, I'm not trying to skew the results, I want just the opposite. I'd get a ton more mileage, get my ego stroked, get cited in paper after paper for years after my death, if I...if we for that matter, were the ones who were able to conclusively prove that scientifically not only does 'Vladivostok 7' sound different than an equivalent length of copper with a similar gauge but that its sound was preferred. Then we'd have people studying what it is that makes 'Vladivostok 7' better. Maybe they'd come to the conclusion that despite the company's claims, it came down to having a combination of have an inductance below a certain level and a capacitance between 'x' and 'y'. Now we'd have other players who would jump into the mix, look at our results, and design similar wires perhaps using different approaches, driving the cost down so that all consumers could now benefit. To me, to my mind, that's a good thing.
Lee, you're a passionate, dedicated, and no doubt skilled individual. You listen and identify things in a studio that I certainly can't with the aim of making a superior recording based upon your experience. But experts get fooled all the time. Scientists get tricked when investigating claims of paranormal abilities. Take a look at this link: http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_564693.html
and read briefly about how wine experts can be fooled. If it can be said that you are a 'believer' and I am a skeptic, then it is good that we work together to act as checks on each other. From my point of view, I don't see how I can theoretically make it any worse for 'my side' assuming I have one. You pick the wire you believe makes the most difference. Give me the effective gauge and length, and we'll choose an appropriate one from say Sound King. Or maybe jumper cables, but then that's driving the cost of my wires up, isn't it? Maybe Cardas will be willing to donate a set of wires in the interests of scientific pursuits.
I've always found it puzzling that the only testing to date that has shown a difference among wires was done years ago that indicated one can hear the difference between a long length of 24 gauge (maybe it was 28) and a similar length of I believe it was 12 gauge. That was attributed to resistance. Believers and skeptics don't usually argue this finding. After all these years...years..companies with pockets deep enough to fund the research, magazines too...we haven't seen any legitimate attempts at conducting scientifically verifiable tests. Doesn't that strike anyone as peculiar?
 

Lee Scoggins

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I've always found it puzzling that the only testing to date that has shown a difference among wires was done years ago that indicated one can hear the difference between a long length of 24 gauge (maybe it was 28) and a similar length of I believe it was 12 gauge. That was attributed to resistance. Believers and skeptics don't usually argue this finding. After all these years...years..companies with pockets deep enough to fund the research, magazines too...we haven't seen any legitimate attempts at conducting scientifically verifiable tests. Doesn't that strike anyone as peculiar?
Chu,
Actually many high end companies like Cardas have conducted listening tests and ABed their cables and then published results or at least used them in R&D to produce a better product - the so-called "voicing" in high end speak.
The problem is that non-believers then dispute their listening tests, DBT or not, as being biased since they are also selling cables...
This seems to me to put the cable firms in a tough spot. Take Cardas for instance:
Let's assume for the argument that George Cardas really is a genius and that he has stumbled onto a major cable design breakthrough that involves "Golden Ratio" stranding. He then seeks a controlled atmosphere listening tests and invites his audiophile friends and relatives and musicians over for listening tests. Let's also assume that these tests show a clear, material, statistically relevant sonic difference evident of his new cable design advance working.
How does George prove his test was not biased?
How does George create a test that is independent that involves his cables?
George has a complex problem I think, because he must create a similar resolution system, make sure there is some basic rigor in the listening and testing process, and then have a competent "research" type manage the results properly.
Yet, his cable still could be viewed as "snake oil" by non-believers because they disagree with one or more parameters of the test.
You see Chu I think to conclusively prove this is very, very difficult through listening tests. There are many variables, there are people with different experiences as listeners, and creating a blind, cable switch technique is very tricky.
My point is that I think some high end cable designers while good, just as soon not go to the trouble of all this to satisfy rightly intellectually curious people like your self. At the end of the day the profit motive is powerful in our capitalist system and this compels George (hypothetically here please) to focus on selling cable to audiophiles who already believe (in my case I suggest have already heard is a better description :)).
See my point?
Now for George, in reality I do think he has a unique vision for audio cables and the pro industry uses his work extensively, particularly among audiophile labels. He also has a great web site that explains as best he can, his design philosophy and how this translates into improved listening. Ray Kimber of Kimber Kable and Bill Low of Audioquest, among many others also do this.
At the end of the day, all that matters is the music. One of the cool things about audio is that consumers and engineers vote with their wallet and good cable manufacturers tend to last (as well as good equipment mfrs like Audio Research and Mark Levinson) in a challenging business.
One small note: the recording studios I work in are major facilities, like the old (sadly no longer) RCA Studio A, Kaufmann-Astoria, the General Theological Seminary in NYC, etc. These facilities do have great acoustics generally and the recording chain we set up includes highly revealing tube microphones and the best in mixing board design (minimal as possible-the more sliders the scarier the sound IMHO), and so on. This creates an environment where very small changes have a big sound impact. So in this professional environment, how do we know it will sound the same in the home environment? Good question.
Answer: The playback system is always normal high end playback equipment. The playback also includes 24/96 and DSD source material, so if you have high resolution format, you are close to this pro experience, except perhaps for room acoustics but you can always get goodies from Michael Green or ASC (tube traps, etc.) This way we are assured the end user will most likely be satisfied with our hard efforts if he has a reasonable system.
But we don't stop there, we take the "masters" home and listen to our own sound systems we know intimately. This leads us to form opinions about how we are doing at the end of every evening (believe this is harder than it sounds due to (1) listener fatigue and (2) very late hours post-session) over 3-4 days of the session. We can compare notes and focus on areas where there seem to be a concern among several of the staff, questions like "is the accent piano microphone too smooth sounding or is it a glassy, liquid sound like a real piano makes?" or "is the saxophone balanced properly with the drum kit on an acoustic jazz track?"
So yes, I believe a good recording session can translate into an equally good home listening session and environment.
 

Chu Gai

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How does one respond to this Lee?
First of all, what is necessarily successful in the studio doesn't by itself imply that similar benefits will result in a home environment. In the former case, you're switching cables, microphones...god knows what else and then feeding the information into devices for the purposes of recording the sound. Rather than look upon the what occurs in the studio and extrapolate it to the home environment, I believe we're better off focusing on the home environement. Extrapolation is a dangerous thing...not necessarily invalid but it can lead to erroneous assumptions. You and I and others have both seen analogies used in an attempt to validate one's position. The old water coming out of cracked, old rubber hose comes to mind. Examples of erroneous extrapolation abound, i.e. Jets are fast..jets use jet fuel so if i use jet fuel in my car it will also be fast....or deionized water is used by scientists because it's pure so I should drink it also. Bad moves on both parts and also equally crappy analogies.
You talk about the difficulties in designing a test. There are some yes, but I shall shortly propose the framework of a test that is widely used to discern differences (if there are any) in sensory evaluations. The framework will be one of DBT at best or SBT at worst but it has the benefit of being widely used and studied.
Its been said that putting people in a testing environment is stressful and some don't perform well under pressue. While that may well be true for some, typically one finds that people perform at their best during such times due to increased levels of adrenaline in their systems which heightens their sensory perception. If anything, this should bring out the best in the majority of people. We can always choose people who seek to be part of our eventual cable evaluation, the implication being that they desire to be there to take the last shot. I'm sure the forum has many members who would chomp at the bit to check this all out. Hell Lee, I'll even step out of the part of being a listening participant and just be the omnicient observer.
You bring to the table issues of a system may not be revealing enough. So what are the specs for a revealing system? Does the one cited by Brian Buckstead which consists of Definitive Technology BP 2000TL's mated to Denon 5800 with a Panasonic RV31 meet the criteria? It would seem to me that since you told him Monster speaker cable sounds bad and suggested 'audibly' better alternatives then it certainly must have some resolving ability, no? George seems to thind so. Just because a set of speakers aren't of the most recent vintage and type (electrostatic, hybrid, plasma, ribbon, horns, etc.) or have the accolades of every reviewer out there, does not imply they are incapable of revealing differences in musical material. People have been able to hear differences in CD's that have been mastered differently and this is using speakers like Paradigms, B&W, Energy, you name it. They notice that after having moved some things around in their home that their system now seems to be imbalanced. When pointed to the reason, they realize what happened and make adjustments. Whatever their setup was, its been adequate to discern that something' different.
Is it the amplifier? Do we need minimum slew rates, transformers that'd put a utility company to shame...dropping the distortion measurements 2 orders of magnitude? Will any CD Player do? If not, pick one.
Do BetterCables, Cardas, etc. specifically state this as a disclaimer or postulate what one's system must be in order to reap the benefit of their wares? No. Do they tell you just how you must sit, what sort of program material best illustrates the alleged sonic differences, what your hearing must be in order to appreciate the price you've just paid? No. They do offer cables at various price points and while some may say it is that various people, with different budgetary constraints can reap the benefits. In the absence of verifiable proof and cutting to the chase it seems more like 'let's snag a sucker at every price point'. The old 10% or 20% rule that so many are fond of quoting. Yes, there is often a statement that says if you're not pleased for any reason, send them back for a full refund (sometimes though the refund is full but is minus s/h charges back and forth...maybe additional insurance is required...might be a restocking fee...your time is worth something and all that). They say test them in your own system but never is the nature of the test described. So what does that say about the what's really behind the sell? There can be more than one way to test for sure but leaving it up to the individual, who has already gotten it into his/her head that they're gonna reap a benefit, is certainly playing into the cat's hand. Hell, if I told you I adjusted levels using a Radio Shack SPL by moving it around and was pleased, hopefully someone would step up and tell me I was wrong and why. If I still persisted in stating I was pleased with the final results, maybe some would say 'well if it pleases you fine'. But I'd expect a significant majority would be muttering under their breath, 'what an a**hole' and they'd be quite correct.
Audioquest, which manufactures a line of well regarded cables says in their website, http://www.audioquest.com/theory/theory5.html that using their cables you'll hear the difference on a boombox. In fact I do believe that audioquest demonstrated the difference their cables made (i wasn't there and don't have the particulars) at some show a number of years back. The environement I'm sure wasn't optimal but they seemed to think the overall setup was revealing enough. So please, those of you who've read this perform your own searches. Personally, I find AudioQuest's site to be a model of audio myths and required reading for those interested in studying unsupported claims.
You know, the overall idea of the whole scientific process is really pretty simple. Design the test. Statistically analyze it. Throw the particulars out there and if there are any shortcomings that are found. Redo it to correct anything that may've be amiss. Publish results thorough enough that others may replicate it. Examine the replications.
I've yet to see such a procedure result in a finding that cables of similar length and gauge sound different. If you or someone else has, please share the details.
I don't disagree with your premise that people have different abilities to discriminate sounds. Maybe audio engineers are a special breed. Maybe blind people are the most special. But the cable companies aren't selling to just this small niche. Everyone who has any kind of a system is being targeted. The profit motive is indeed strong and so long as companies can find new ways to differentiate their product, invent new unmeasurable distortion terms, come up with novel winding or braiding techniques, it'll continue to make a profit. Especially so long as they eschew the need for testing and instead rely on the consumer to make up their mind. Would it be the case though if somehow they were first required to prove a sonic benefit? I think not.
We have a way to turn what it is that either of us believes into knowledge. At least for us and perhaps for those who choose to participate. I can't make it any easier. I'm putting up OFC copper. Hell Lee, I'll even try to find some crappy copper that's got metallic impurities and isn't OFC. I'm tying both of my hands behind my back and letting you take a swing with whatever cable at whatever price range you want. Pick the cable and take your shot.
 

Lee Scoggins

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Especially so long as they eschew the need for testing and instead rely on the consumer to make up their mind. Would it be the case though if somehow they were first required to prove a sonic benefit? I think not.
Chu, we have covered this ground before. Most high end cable companies do, in fact, their own listening tests internally. Since they sell to audiophiles, they know if the tests indicate good sound, they will be rewarded with more business. There is not a lot of budget for marketing - most of these companies are too small to have real marketing budgets. All they have to prove is to themselves and then the audiophile community - it is simply unrealistic and a waste of limited capital to create tests to please scientists.
 

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